Tillman W. Payne, III

By Ashley Benkarski

NASHVILLE, TN — Smith County native and Nashville attorney Tillman Payne, III will be on the ballot for 20th District Criminal Court, Division IV Judge in this year’s election.

Payne is running against Judge Jennifer Smith, who was appointed to the bench last year by Gov. Bill Haslam before he left office.

Though presiding over a courtroom would be new for Payne, he said he’s confident in his experience and ability to transition into the role. 

A graduate of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Payne received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture. He earned his Master’s in Human Relations from the University of Oklahoma and his Juris Doctor’s degree from the Antonin Scalia School of Law at George Mason University in Arlington, Va.

He fulfills his commitment to the community as the Guide Right Committee chairman for the Nashville Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Rites of Passage “Boys to Men” and the Young Men of Valor program with Metro Nashville Public Schools. The programs provide mentorship to young male students.

He also serves on the Board of Directors for West Nashville’s Sports League which provides over 2,000 kids with youth athletics needs in five different sports.

Payne attends Bethel World Outreach Church and has served in its Children’s Ministry and Greeting Ministry. He also serves as an Usher.

He’s also a veteran of the United States Air Force, having served as a detachment commander in Korea and selected as Executive Officer to high-level general officers at the Pentagon and the Defense Logistics Agency, achieving the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before his retirement from active duty in 2003. He returned to Tennessee and became an Assistant Public Defender in Wilson County’s 15th Judicial District Public Defender’s Office.

As a judicial candidate for Division IV’s drug court, Payne seeks to serve veteran offenders who have mental health and substance abuse issues by allowing them to remain employed while they receive treatment–a simple solution on the surface, but the effects ripple outward and into the community.

Payne has an “holistic approach” to treat and rehabilitate offenders that addresses systemic issues of poverty, education and housing that keep people in the justice system. Further, he aims to remedy problems at the micro level by promoting family reunification and reducing foster care placements, his campaign said.

Another part of that approach includes the reduction of stigma surrounding mental health and substance abuse, which Payne believes is paramount amid the opioid epidemic. Tennessee reported 1,304 overdose deaths and over six million painkiller prescriptions in 2018, according to data from the Tennessee Department of Health.

“We must protect and make victims whole while holding people accountable and ensuring we provide support to people who are paying their debt to society. We need to help them be better citizens once they return back to our communities,” Payne said.

For more information on his campaign, visit www.tillmanpayneforjudge.com.

Early voting for the presidential preference primary and county primary taking place Tues., March 3 is scheduled for Feb. 12 through Feb. 25, with the absentee deadline ending on the last day of early voting. To learn more visit GoVoteTN.com or call 1-877-850-4959.